Nigerian secessionist leader Nnamdi Kanu pleads not guilty to terrorism

Thursday October 21 2021

Nnamdi Kanu, Nigerian secessionist leader, at the Federal High Court in the capital Abuja on October 21, 2021. PHOTO | POOL


Nigerian secessionist leader, Nnamdi Kanu, has pleaded not guilty to seven charges preferred against him by the government.

The leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) group was arraigned at the Federal High Court in the capital Abuja on Thursday.

The government amended the charges from five to seven, including treason, terrorism, operating an illegal company, and publishing defamatory materials.

Mr Kanu was arrested outside the country in June after fleeing Nigeria in 2017. Details of his arrest remain unclear as Britain, where the government says he was arrested, and Kenya, where his family and lawyer claim he was taken from, have both denied any involvement.

Tight security

Mr Kanu, 54, was brought into the court premises under tight security mounted by the army, police and civil defence corps at 8 am. Some routes to the federal court were also cordoned off.


No journalist was allowed inside the courtroom, with the Nigerian secret police saying they were acting on “orders from above”.

Mr Ifeanyi Ejiofor, lead defence counsel, confirmed that his client was in court to face trial, sending pictures of them together in the courtroom. 

Mr Kanu pleaded not guilty before the court presided by Justice Binta Nyanko.

The judge declined his request to be transferred to Kuje Correctional Centre from the secret police custody under the Department of State Service (DSS). He has been held in solitary confinement.

The court, however, granted that three persons of Kanu’s choice be allowed to visit him at the DSS facility.


Mr Kanu has been championing the re-enactment of the 1967 declaration of the Biafra republic from Nigeria, which led to a three-year civil war until 1970 and claimed the lives of three million people, mostly from starvation.

Mr Kanu is accused that on diverse dates in 2014 and 2015 in London, he operated an online radio station, Radio Biafra, calling for the secession of the southeast Nigerian region to create the Republic of Biafra.

Further, he is accused of having used the radio to refer to President Muhammadu Buhari as a paedophile, a terrorist, an idiot and an embodiment of evil, knowing the same to be false.

Additional charges say the dual citizen of Nigeria and UK concealed and misdeclared a radio transmitter, TRAM 50L, he imported into the country as a household item.

In 2016, Mr Kanu is accused of professing to be the leader of the outlawed Biafran separatist group IPOB.

The government says he directed IPOB members to kill security agents and their family members, which constitutes terrorism. Further, he is charged with acts of terrorism for declaring through a broadcast on May 16 this year, saying, “in two weeks time, what will happen will shake the world, people will die, the whole world will stand still, mark my word”.

And that on May 31, 2021, Mr Kanu, while in London, issued a death threat that anyone who flouted sit-at-home order “should write his/her will.” As a result, banks, schools, markets, shopping malls, fuel stations were closed and vehicular movements grounded.

The crimes, the government says, are punishable under the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act, 2013.

If found guilty, Mr Kanu could be sentenced to life in prison.

The court adjourned to November 10 for the hearing of his application challenging the competence of the suit.